Day­light

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Zom­bie Stu­dios (PC), Atlus (PS4) De­vel­oper Zom­bie Stu­dios For­mat PC (ver­sion tested), PS4 Re­lease Out now

PC, PS4

Zom­bie Stu­dios’ pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated hor­ror game is flawed from its con­cept up. The best hor­ror re­lies on a com­bi­na­tion of dread and sur­prise, ten­sion and jumpy re­lease – el­e­ments that are care­fully au­thored. Hand­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity over to an al­go­rithm might seem like an in­trigu­ing tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise, but proves a poor al­ter­na­tive to crafts­man­ship.

It might not have been so bad if the build­ing blocks Zom­bie has de­signed were put to­gether in in­ter­est­ing ways. Day­light, how­ever, as­saults you with stretch af­ter stretch of in­dis­tinct cor­ri­dor and re­peated room lay­outs. In one playthrough, we nav­i­gate a sec­tion of prison that con­tains four can­teens and three in­for­ma­tion desks. Pro­ce­dural is­sues aren’t limited to ar­chi­tec­tural dol­drums, ei­ther: pro­tag­o­nist Sarah’s ex­cla­ma­tions of­ten don’t tally with what you’re see­ing. At one point she asks, “Is any­one there?” as we stare at a ghostly ap­pari­tion stand­ing right in front of us, wail­ing.

That’s not to say you won’t jump a cou­ple of times. There are plenty of po­ten­tial scares: a stack of boxes col­laps­ing loudly; a drip pole skat­ing across your path; one of the game’s scream­ing women ma­te­ri­al­is­ing right be­hind you. But their ef­fect is dulled through rep­e­ti­tion, only the lat­ter re­tain­ing any abil­ity to give you the wil­lies – and then sim­ply be­cause star­ing too long at the ghosts will kill you, mean­ing you have to restart the sec­tion from scratch thanks to bru­tal check­point­ing.

In fact, the scari­est thing about Day­light is that it’s run­ning in Un­real En­gine 4. It’s ar­tis­ti­cally and tech­ni­cally im­pov­er­ished even on a pow­er­ful PC. By the time you’ve reached the sew­ers, hav­ing trekked through a samey hospi­tal and can­teen-rid­dled prison, your pa­tience will be wear­ing thin.

Each new area is ac­cessed via a mag­i­cally sealed door that’s unlocked with a Sigil. These only ap­pear once you’ve col­lected a cer­tain num­ber of notes from each area. As you hunt, you can light glow­sticks to high­light clues and use flares to ban­ish the more ag­gres­sive spir­its in a shower of sparks. Come across a cab­i­net con­tain­ing a stash of ei­ther when your in­ven­tory’s full, how­ever, and the items dis­ap­pear, mean­ing you can’t re­turn to then later – a prob­lem com­pounded by the fact that cab­i­nets can also con­tain notes.

Ex­plo­ration sec­tions are in­ter­spersed with rigidly de­signed puzzle ar­eas, but these, damn­ingly, are lit­tle bet­ter than the ran­domly as­sem­bled seg­ments. Baf­fling de­sign de­ci­sions and over-re­liance on the same tricks fur­ther mar this al­ready un­pleas­ant jour­ney. In the right hands, pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion can pro­vide rea­sons to re­turn to fa­mil­iar haunts, but Day­light of­fers lit­tle mo­ti­va­tion to make it to the end even once.

The ap­pear­ance of Day­light’s ghostly fe­male an­tag­o­nists is her­alded by a stut­ter­ing noise, which is gen­uinely un­nerv­ing. Stay in prox­im­ity too long and you’ll end up dead, but in most cases you can sim­ply run past them

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